Tips on job hunting in NZ for Kiwi returners
What a difference a year makes! Last year Tricia Alach of How To Have a Happy Homecoming interviewed Minta Smith from specialist repatriate recruitment firm HOME Recruitment to get her advice for Kiwis re-entering the NZ job market. This year, she caught up with her again to find out what’s happening in the market due to Covid and whether that advice has changed.
It’s been about a year since we talked about what Kiwi repatriates can expect when job hunting on their return to NZ. A lot has happened this year so can you walk us through what you’re seeing in terms of trends in the market, both from an employer & candidate perspective?
First of all, for HOME Recruitment, I’d say that the market has just about bounced back to pre-Covid levels in terms of volume but the industries that are hiring may not be the same. More employers are looking to tap into the repat market and some companies are now specifying that they want candidates who have recent experience in an overseas market, mainly to support expansion plans.
In terms of employer trends:
Surprisingly, quite a few NZ firms across the SaaS and technology sector, have experienced unexpected organic growth in overseas markets during the last few months. Now they are looking to put some resource in place so that they can capitalise on that trend and hopefully grow some more.
Some companies have done very well in recent months and are looking to resource up which may also include creating new roles. Primarily these are companies looking to expand their digital footprint, or transitioning to e-commerce. In some cases, these companies are also looking to expand their global footprint at the same time which means candidates with both relevant market experience and digital or e-commerce experience are in high demand.
We are still seeing a little bit of ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’ from local employers especially if this relates to international growth or scaling up. Because a lot of NZ businesses don’t have previous experience of doing either of these things, they may struggle to accurately scope the role or have unrealistic expectations about finding unicorn candidates who meet every element of the brief.
Organisations across the board are getting much more comfortable with virtual interviewing and many will happily extend an offer to a candidate who is still living overseas. Most will only hire candidates who have a NZ passport, so they can easily get into the country without a visa. Some will pay the quarantine fees.
The big demand we are seeing is in the midlevel i.e. roles that pay between $80K to $120K. In that market good talent is being snapped up as quickly as it ever was and is only getting more competitive. We’re not currently seeing the same demand for senior roles but the indications are that this may be yet to come.
In terms of candidate trends:
I’m finding that most people coming back because of Covid have pretty realistic expectations about what the job market in NZ can offer. If anything, they are expecting less than what is actually possible so are often pleasantly surprised when I talk to them about the range of available roles.
I’d say that about 70% of the people we talk to are coming back to NZ for good, while the rest are open to going overseas again, depending on what happens over the next couple of years.
Most people are pretty confident that they will find their feet and are comfortable with the process of transition and the experience of ambiguity that characterises the first few months back in NZ because they’ve already had at least one experience of arriving in a new country without a job and figuring things out as they go along. What I see are people consciously employing all those useful skills and mind-sets that they’ve gained in their previous life to their NZ job hunting experience as well.
Most of the candidates we see are pretty open to considering a range of options – from multi-national to small, local firms – and don’t seem to have a fixed view of the kind of role they want to take on. They are also very comfortable to start with a contract role, rather than holding out for permanent because that was what they did when they first moved to London (or wherever). If a person has had that experience before, I find they are pretty comfortable with the ambiguity that can characterise those first few weeks back home.
Interestingly, I’ve also spoken to a few people, mainly those who are more experienced or senior in their field, who are keen to set something up on their own so that they can work with a range of companies in an advisor or consulting capacity. I’m not sure whether this will become more of a trend but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
One thing that has surprised a number of candidates is how quickly they may be offered a role. I’ve spoken to a few people while they were still in quarantine and then started actively marketing them into clients who have jumped at the chance to hire them. Meanwhile, the candidate was envisaging having a good few weeks (or months) of holiday before the offers starting coming in.
For people who are already back in NZ, what’s your advice on how to best approach job hunting?
Well first of all, if you want a holiday first, don’t start job hunting too soon :-). Secondly, avoid the scattergun approach. As I said in last year’s interview, NZ is a small place, and if you indiscriminately apply for every role, you may be seen as desperate which, is not the impression you want to create.
Do the work to make sure that your CV has been translated into the NZ format, which may include translating some of your old job-titles into the local vernacular. Speaking to a specialist recruiter about how to do this is probably the best way to get this right.
Companies are really keen to hear how you will add value to their business so be prepared to present yourself in commercial terms. This might mean being really clear on your ability to generate revenue or retain key clients. Equally it could be presenting your technical specialism in a way that directly links to the bottom line.
This being NZ, the interviewer might not directly ask about things in monetary terms but they will ask around it. I think it’s best to front-foot these conversations so make sure you’ve got concrete examples and know your numbers.
For people who are still overseas but thinking about coming back, what’s your advice on the best approach to job hunting in NZ?
Companies are open to virtual interviews and making offers to those who are still abroad so it is worth starting to look while you are still overseas. Remember that a lot of jobs are not advertised so make sure that you connect with local recruiters who may know who is hiring in your field or be able to proactively market you in to the right firms.
Some organisations are quite comfortable setting people up to work remotely for a while before the person makes the physical move back to NZ, some are not. It’s probably a good idea to raise this with the recruiter fairly early on if your timeframe for returning is unknown or some way off.
If you’re local employer is comfortable with you moving to NZ and continuing to work for them from here, this can also be a way to ease this transition – just be mindful that there are tax implications. I speak to quite a few candidates who are doing it this way. Some came out on furlough from the UK and have since moved onto NZ based roles. Others are continuing to contract back to their overseas employer for a set amount of time.
For employers keen to tap into the repat market, what’s your advice?
First of all don’t be fooled by thinking that volume equals calibre or that every returner will be desperate for a job. The market is still competitive, especially for those with in-demand skills and good talent are quite prepared to bide their time and wait for the right role.
If you’re looking to hire people with specific experience to help you do something you’ve never done before – expand into a foreign market, implement a digital strategy, scale up and so on – listen to the candidates if they tell you that you’re scoping the job wrong. A few times I’ve seen a candidate walk away from a job offer because they know, based on their experience, that they are being set up to fail, but the company doesn’t realise because they have never done this before.
Relatedly, consider engaging repats with extensive experience or who have held senior roles, in a consulting or advisor capacity. There are lots of areas where NZ businesses traditionally struggle – scaling up, transforming from traditional retail to e-commerce, entering new markets – which are often areas of expertise for returning talent. In some cases, investing in getting some good advice before you make your plans, might be a better option that trying to hire someone to do a poorly scoped job.
What’s your advice for returners in terms of how best to think about work in the grand scale of the return?
Be flexible and open minded and accept that some things are going to come down to timing. In some cases, you might get a job sooner that you would have liked, in other cases it might take a while especially if you are holding out for a very specific role.
Remember you can do this and that you have done it before. When you moved overseas you put yourself out of the safety net and successfully created a life for yourself. You can definitely do the same back in NZ if you reach out for expert help, adapt to local norms and give yourself some time.
To read Minta’s earlier interview full of great advice about re-entering the NZ job market click here
This story was created by Tricia Alach, creator of the How To Have A Happy Homecoming blog, check it out for more stories of Kiwis coming home and resources for making a smooth transition back.